Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs dies at 88

Earl Scruggs performs onstage during day one of California's Stagecoach Country Music Festival held at the Empire Polo Club on April 25, 2009, in Indio, California. Getty Images

(AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Bluegrass legend and banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who helped profoundly change country music with Bill Monroe and later with guitarist Lester Flatt, has died. He was 88.

Scruggs' son Gary said his father passed away Wednesday morning at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital. Gary Scruggs said his father died of natural causes.

Earl Scruggs: 1924-2012

The elder Scruggs was an innovator who pioneered modern banjo sound. His use of three fingers rather than the clawhammer style elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian's prop — to a lead instrument.

His string-bending and lead runs became known worldwide as "the Scruggs picking style." It was perhaps most prominently displayed on the iconic theme from "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Gary Scruggs says funeral plans are incomplete.

Below listen to Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt perform "Dear Old Dixie"


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